Why are we running the project?
The strategic use of public litigation has proven to be a promising tool to fight injustice not only at the individual level but also at the societal level and thus to bring about social change. However, marginalised people often face barriers in accessing the legal system due to lack of knowledge and high costs. Using the assistance of the Robert Bosch Foundation, Systemic Justice conducted a Europe-wide consultation process to identify the priorities of various marginalized communities that should be addressed in court proceedings. As Nani Jansen Reventlow, the founder of Systemic Justice, states, 'Our goal is to ensure that communities have a realistic option to use litigation as one of their tools.'
What are our goals?
In recent years, social movements have increasingly used court rooms as a tool to assert their interests and shape social change. A court ruling on the German government's climate change policies is just one of many examples of this trend. Following a complaint by environmental organisations, the court found that the government was not sufficiently fulfilling its environmental obligations and ordered it to implement an emergency climate protection programme.
In a similar manner, Systemic Justice is working towards a world where those movements - especially those of marginalized communities - have the power to use the courts on their own terms to secure racial, social, and economic justice. Its approach to litigation follows an agenda and process that is led by communities with the support of legal practitioners. Communities can then push for meaningful and significant structural changes that enhance their lives through the courts, and dismantle power structures that fuel racial, social, and economic injustice that impacts millions of people across Europe.
How does the project work?
The organisation’s work spans across three key areas:
1.Build power — Building the knowledge and power of organisations and movements fighting for justice is a key strand of their work, as this will allow communities to better decide if and how litigation can be used. They do this by developing resources, materials, and workshops on strategic litigation, to assist in better understanding the different aspects of it, and to help guide considerations on if or how litigation might be a tactic to include in campaigns for change. These resources are built on the basis of the expressed need of the communities they work with;
2.Launch community-driven strategic litigation — Systemic Justice will litigate with their community partners to achieve change by leveraging the power of thecourts. Instead of having lawyers take over and set the agenda, they are jointly developing community-driven litigation campaigns to bring about structural change on issues of racial, social, and economic justice. In this process communities’ perspective and lived experience drive the work. Recognising that structural change takes time, the organisation enters into long-term partnerships and develop strategies that tackle root causes rather than merely address the symptoms of unjust and unequal power structures. The organisation's current thematic focus is on climate change and social security;
3.Scale impact — The organisation facilitates a Community of Practice for litigators, legal practitioners, and litigating organisations working on cases concerning racial, social, and economic justice issues in Europe. The aim of this community is to build equitable working models that can be shared widely, which will strengthen community-driven litigation overall. It will also strengthen strategic litigation for racial, social, and economic justice in Europe by offering legal practitioners working on such cases an opportunity to connect, educate themselves, support each other, and build knowledge. Across these strands of work, Systemic Justice collaborates with organisations, movements, and collectives, which work directly on issues of racial, social, and economic justice, as well as litigators who work within these areas.